Every year, my dear partner/husband Ian and I sit down to draw up a creativity plan to map out how to wisely spend our time. We run a homestead. We have young children. And... it has been important to us to try and live inside of a sacred schedule that includes adapted, simple, daily chants, and ritual, so our children can be included.
Often it has come up for me, that the rule of thumb for releasing an album is to do so every 16 to 18 months. And what I've come to realize is, that model was designed by a billboard-style industry that kept the artists and listeners in need of a remarkable number of middle men. Every day, is a fuller realization of the sovereignty I have worked for as an artist, and it has itself, become a co-author in the work that is to come.
So, I will be embarking on a new, more relational model this year, by releasing an album, one song at a time, inside of the rhythm of this year's liturgical calendar. No need to reinvent the wheel... the sacred lineage of a rhythm of life is laid out for us. This model affords far more interaction and connection and community-building, and feels synonymous with my desire to be in direct interaction with those who listen to this music.
The photo above is a sneak peek at an upcoming song and video release, to mark the season of Lent. The song, When Love Meets Dust was written in 2018, when Ash Wednesday landed on Valentine's Day, and I sat in the apparent dissonance of that.
To learn more about this year, and especially the book/album announcement for next year, listen to my Sunday Song Radio show and you can also check it out in the PDF below.
In this episode, I explore how many of us formed by the evangelical movement, have experienced the trauma of being entrained to be enablers, particularly of people in positions of religious power. I address the internal wrestling I have gone through, of struggling to seeing the difference between holding a perception of one sacred universe, and being expected to offer "cheap grace" to people who abuse their positions of power.
In this week's radio show, I also explore the roots and rise of Evangelicalism and how many of us who see ourselves as "post evangelical" need to be examining our own reactions... because the evangelical movement itself rose out of reactivity.
Near the end of the episode I confess to the role I have played in the very present danger of political sectarianism that is on the doorstep of the entire Western world, and currently playing out in the United States.
Click the play button below to listen, and if you would like to leave me a voice message, go directly to:
Otherwise, feel free to type a comment here, as I always read them, and appreciate your insightful words.
Since I posted the Ring Out, Wild Bells video on December 28th, over 68,000 people have viewed it on facebook, and nearly 6,000 have viewed it on Youtube! A fun way to kick off the New Year, in service, in costume, and on purpose. I heard from many people about how it companioned them through ringing out 2020, and ringing in 2021.
For some time, I have planned to add to my Sunday Song and Rumination column (that I have written nearly every week for two and a half years), with a radio show, and now two episodes are up on my new podcast channel, as well as on Youtube.
In this episode, you will hear a Celtic folk duo from Ontario, named Scotia, playing a pipe and accordion version of my Ring Out, Wild Bells melody. On New Years Eve, other players in the village played this outside their homes and also rang the old church bells 245 times!!! What a beautiful story. And... to top it all off, they dressed up in Scottish steampunk. So fun.
Next week, I will be back into writing, and will begin the radio show by walking through my album Behold, I Make All Things New. If that album has meant something to you, I would love for you to send me a voice message on my podcast platform. Just click "message" and follow the promptings. I really would love to have more interaction with you and hearing voice is so different than reading typed words!
Listen to the podcast by clicking on the image below! Or you can listen with the video above.
Many of you will be familiar with my song Ring Out, Wild Bells. Well... I spent a number of days professionally recording it during the first week of Advent. I hired my amazing mixing engineer to mix and master it, and then last week, I recorded a music video for it.
The video is steampunk-themed, which I thought was fun, and fitting, because Tennyson, who penned the poem (from his requiem In Memoriam), was from the Victorian era, and steampunk is inspired by that age of early technology and style.
I shared a photo of me (pictured here) in steampunk attire, with a mandolin, and I was surprised by how many negative reactions I got, in private messages, in essence, suggesting that I wasn't being spiritual enough...
On Christmas Eve, after passing through some hurt feelings, with a warm and open heart, I went live to tell a story from the Franciscan medieval age... based on a book my children have called The Clown of God by Tomie dePaola (1974), which is adapted and based on a legend.
There were jugglers in the medieval age, who were seen as sacred by the Franciscans.
Although I don't juggle in the video, the story of the jugglers wearing makeup and costume, in performance, to weave in some levity into a suffering world, was one the inspirations ...
To see it as my job to thread some fun into and through and along with the grief of this year's suffering.
You can watch the talk I gave in the video below.
To get ready for the brand new version and video of Ring Out, Wild Bells, you can download this gift...
a PDF copy of the standard notation and lyrics:
Because I am preparing to go live on facebook for Sunday Song this week, I have a very short reflection here today.
In this very Advent-y song, from Meditation with Children... you can hear my collaborator Noel Keating, show us again, how children intuit the Presence. The children who shared their meditation experiences to Noel, will forever be my teachers. Thanks to them, my Advent season, and my own inherent awareness, is forever richer.
I want to be clear, that I wrote this essay assuming nearly most of my listeners are in the “listen to the science” category.
I, and most of the people who listen to my music, are not the church goers who think the pandemic is a conspiracy created to threaten the freedom of religion.
I wrote the essay for those of us who are honouring the recommendations suggested by our scientists and doctors.
In our case, we may run the risk of losing our whimsy and wonder, even if only because we’re trying to show we are not the church-goers breaking the shut-down rules.
I’m sad that so many church people where I live are thinking they are being persecuted, when in point of fact, it looks like they’re really trying to be more special.
The essay isn’t necessarily for them. I don’t know what to do about them, other than to lovingly hold their privilege close to the fire of real compassion.
My reflection is meant for those of us who might default to cynicism at this time. And in doing so, a very unique Advent, could be wasted.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been hinging much of my ability to endure the fog that seems to be hovering over the world, on the fact that Advent was around the corner. This year, not only do our kids have typical calendars, but we also have a very detailed journey we’re going to be going on, with readings and crafts. Actually... 3 rituals per day, including incorporating more than usual, into our candle lighting before bedtime.
I’m not a "crafty" mom. And I’m not a type-A person (I’m sure most of you have figured that out by now). But I have definitely hyped the lead-up to Advent with my kids this year, to the point where Advent itself feels like Christmas. They went to bed with such excitement that they told me their hearts felt “infinity big”.
Then one of our kids was looking at a book about animals this morning, and he called for me to come and see... he said... "Mom! Come here!!! Look!!! Even the animals and sea creatures in my book are saying 'Happy Advent'!"
Oh my dear child, may you hold onto that seeing!
Last night, we watched Mary Poppins Returns, and at one point, when nearly everyone is floating around in the sky, joyfully holding onto a balloon, Angela Lansbury's character says to Mary Poppins, "most of the grown-ups will have forgotten about this by morning".
It is a strange time out there right now. As we navigate what 'post-truth' means. As we see people on the boiled down battlefield of science vs conspiracy.
Part of why many of us can't both look at science, cosmology, expanding concepts and theories, while also not being the "grown-ups who've forgotten by morning", is because we're STILL stuck in a this or that mindset. Maybe part of the reason there has been this mutation, this violence done to the precious realm of suspension of disbelief, (ie. ugly, often racist, lies, being deemed "what is true for me", a hijacking of those "speaking their truth" to a "centralized enforced truth" from the margins), is because the whole set-up has long been aimed at "forgetting about this by morning". For good reason, in part. If we could only eradicate with science, the out for blood and hellfire, petulant God, who gaslights, and needs appeasement, then maybe we have a chance at being free. That's pretty fair. But the new priesthood soon marched in, and a new mighty "god", still with white supremacy at the helm (built right in to the roots of evolution, and even conservation), moved in.
Don't get me wrong. I am deeply, deeply grateful for science, and am not trying to debunk the work of science with this essay.
But I still wonder... will whimsy and wonder make it through this horrifically conflated, one-dimensional binary of "science vs conspiracy"?
Let me explain...
The Shaman held a posture of lateral prayer, a "praying with" the whole of the animated creation, drawing from not only his or her incarnate power, but from the web of incarnation found within each and every thing, which makes up a remarkable Whole. It would not shock me at all to hear that Jesus was that kind of practitioner. One who could pray to the creator, not just "above", but who could see that "God's center is everywhere, and circumference is nowhere."
So let's be honest. Science traditionally has had no room for the Shaman. And... let's be honest, enlightenment-influenced science has played a dramatic role in all of us "forgetting by morning"... and is in part, responsible for the colonization of indigenous seeing. It doesn't have to be that way, but it has often been that way, nonetheless.
Now it seems neither "side" has room for a lateral comprehension of incarnation... and seeing anything outside of this binary, has been described as "voodoo" more recently by the left, than by the right. It seems that this is a shared derogatory term from both the enlightened left, and the religious right.
Voodou has an incredible history. It is a mix of African indigenous beliefs, Irish and Scottish druidic/Celtic Christian beliefs, and the indigenous beliefs of the Caribbean Basin region. Its rituals are remarkable, and in some aspects, not unlike the Sufi or Pentecostals very much embodying "trance dance", a form of healing dance that every single one of us has in our ancestry.
This is obviously not a treatise for not wearing a mask (by any means). Nor is it a treatise for not believing science. But it is some food for thought, for all of us who are being respectful, keeping our distance, not gathering, and wearing masks, to be very careful to remain vigilant, on behalf of our child-like ability, to believe in the Mystery of what we cannot see.
To guard the whimsy of our hearts, which is where the longing lives.
As Merton said, "with God, a little bit of longing goes a long way."
In other words, what does it look like to listen to the science, AND believe in silly things... like the incarnation? Perhaps, for starters, it is that the Christ in me, sees the Christ in you... and I love you, and don't want to bring harm to you. That is at least for starters. But maybe we can ponder this more deeply throughout Advent.
Clearly the world has been aching for living ritual for a very long time now. Since well before Covid. And living ritual was certainly in part, squelched by the enlightenment era, which still informs much of the sciences. So again, how do we hold all of this more expansively?
Living ritual is best done when… gathered. But here we are… entering into the great swelling tide of the hope of Advent, in little bubbles of one, two, three, or a few more. So this is the raw material we have to work with. And if that raw material does not encounter the place in us that longs, we are in for some pretty major collective despair. (Which is why I'm risking writing this.)
For the bubbles of one. I wish for you, embrace. Wide, encircling, relieving, embrace. May you feel the very arms of the Creator around you, any time you stop and visit a tree, any time you stop to taste something wonderful, or even from the blankets that cover your body as you sleep. (In order for you to "get there", you must not "forget about this by morning".)
For the bubbles of two. I wish for you, laughter. May the potential binary of two, not get stuck at stalemate. May laughter and a bit of lightness lift you from the rut, and charm the moments of your days. (In order to get there, you must "move into the larger mind" - metanoia - which also requires not "forgetting about this by morning".)
For the bubbles of three or more. I wish for you a balance of encounter, and space. I wish for you the ability to catch the moments of your children's built-in awareness. Because they still don't forget by morning.
And in practical terms... to the mom’s who just want to pee in peace, I wish for you that chance today.
For the blended families, and all their misunderstandings, and all the impossible things, I wish for you a fresh wind that might blow into the cobwebs, and transform old patterns and assumptions. Any hope of transformation requires an element of "magical thinking".
For the children who are feeling like Covid is how its going to be from now on. I wish for you total embodiment, and life, and wonder, the world over.
And finally, may we who are struggling a bit in our bubbles, reach out and touch the world somehow, as she struggles from still more undertow, while the tidal wave of a new era continues to swell. Innovative action, hearing a "call" to shift the reality of even one person, also requires the capacity for "not forgetting about this by morning".
May we reach out, and give big, if we are able. And find ways to move out of our own center, even if we are not able give in the traditional sense.
The suffering (Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Chad, so many who are hungry in wealthy countries that spend upwards of 700 billion per year on weapons, and on, and on…) continues to decimate my heart. I have to let it all go through me, and let my ache join in the “one great Ache”, or I will be comatose in short order. A funny little balance to strike... because "comatose" means "to be in a deep state of unconsciousness"... so that means when my little ache carries the load of of the great Ache, my little consciousness renders me unconscious. But when I let it flow into the big Ache, I can awaken to what is mine to do for the sake of the Whole. This paralysis and fragility is particularly apparent in spaces of comfort where hyper-individual salvation and success, and a lack of imagination, has wreaked enormous havoc on our planet.
From the depths of all our tender places,
O come, O come Emmanuel,
to and through this collective womb,
and out of our deep-down longing…
Richard Rohr says, “the second coming of Christ is not one event, it is the rest of history”.
May we be open to this unfoldment, and this anointing, in new ways during the Advent of 2020.
It certainly isn’t business as usual… but then again… neither was it for Mary.
The song today comes from the Meditation With Children album I did with Irish author Noel Keating. This version of Hope Beyond all Hope, begins with quotations from some children's own experience sitting in meditation. When you listen, notice how they are naturally aware of the Presence.
Our hope beyond all hope did come
To call us each, and everyone
To the surface of our consciousness
God dwells within, and always has
God dwells within, and always will
This week, I don't have a lot of poetic words to offer... but maybe just a bit of realness. I am really sensing how Covid is taking its toll, and wish I could alleviate some loneliness. The best way I know how to do that is with music.
Earlier this week, some friendly listeners informed me that the song One Love was not in the sequence for my online streaming platforms... on my brand new album release!!! For a moment, I felt like my new album was a like a mid 2020 self-cut hair-do with the roots half grown-out.
This isn't my first rodeo, so I didn't get too worried, and ended up turning it into a contest of sorts. The first three people to catch the "glitch" won a Hymns From the Icons CD (one went to Quebec, one went to Alberta, and the last one went to the Netherlands!)
I have nearly fixed that problem, but, you will have to wait a bit more to stream the whole album, as it will be coming back online on any day now.
Like "negative space" in art, that which was missing gave shape to what I looked for. And I spent some time really listening again to this remarkable song by Bob Marley. One line really popped out for me, "is there a place for the hopeless sinner, who has hurt all mankind just to save his own beliefs?".
If you get a chance, watch the hour-long documentary Who Shot the Sheriff? on Netflix.
For people who want artists like me to not be at all political (that's another thing... have I ever gotten it in the past two weeks!), it is a strange consideration. Half the reason songwriters are attuned to music, is to try and sound the bell for justice, and to tell stories that might transform, and name truth. The other half of the reason is that somewhere in there, and equally as potent, is a thrumming call to unite all that has been put asunder. In this documentary, there is a scene where Bob Marley holds the hands of each political leader, the one from the right, and the one from the left, together, in a powerful stage performance that he risked his life to return to Jamaica for. It is a visual statement of naming what is wrong, and also wanting to heal divides all at the same time.
So... with that... I've put in the player below for you the chance to listen to my humble version of a song written (along with Curtis Mayfield) in a very difficult time, by one who was visited by the geniuses, the Muses, the Christ... who asks us to live in tender mercy on behalf of the God-who-became-pieces in order to manifest, and now our great challenge is to live in service of all these pieces coming together.
Remember: the physical store closes for advent/christmas
Alana Levandoski is a song and chant writer, recording artist and music producer, in the Christian tradition, who lives with her family on a regenerative farm on the Canadian prairies.